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Paul Handley hosted a free basketball camp for local children at his home in June.
“Another Level Basketball Academy,” provided four days of instruction to students from first-to-12th grade.
“The reason that I have this camp is a lot of young men don’t have the money to pay for a camp. I want to give back to the community – I’m never going to charge for a basketball camp, said Handley.”
According to Handley, the camp is getting bigger every year. This year, a few people from Indiana attended the camp.
Some of his students are dropped off by parents and friends and some come in a van from The Life Connection, but no matter how they get there, Handley wants to make sure they are all treated the same, and that they all get the experience that most kids have to pay money for.
“We do it because we love kids and we love seeing kids being successful. We just want to give them a chance,” said Handley.
The camp focuses on fundamentals. Mainly he teaches them how to interact with each other and have a good attitude while playing.
“Something I always try to tell them is this: God first, family second, education third, sports fourth,” said Handley. “Always, you can’t do nothing without God.”
The kids who participate in the camp, get a certificate, as well as a free T-shirt and on the last day, they have a cookout.
Every year Handley finds volunteers to help coach the kids. This year, Chris Williams, Naquan Thurman, Joss Lee, K.C. Goodin, Harry Ditto and Brandon Weathers, stepped up.
Weathers has been a part of the camp since it started three years ago. He helps with many different aspects of the program, according to Handley. Among other things, Weathers is the one that picks many of the children up from around the neighborhood.
“I coached him years ago,” said Handley. “I’m just impressed with where he was at and what he’s doing now. He’s got a passion for kids – he’s always involved. One thing he’s doing, is he’s giving back to those kids.”
“At 14 I did some horrible things – went to jail,” said Weathers. “I felt like there was no way out and at some point I said ‘I got to do something.’
“I always wanted to help kids like Coach Handley did.”
“I think it’s best that you get the kids when they’re younger, that way they develop good habits,” Weathers said. “The best reward you can have is helping others – the way it makes you feel. That’s how I keep my spirits up.”
This year, the students received a visit from former pro-basketball player and NCAA basketball coach, Clem Haskins. Haskins, a friend of Handley, told them how he got started in basketball and how they can improve their game.
“I didn’t like basketball – I loved basketball,” said Haskins, who coached Minnesota to its only final-four appearance.
“The great thing about basketball is that all you need to have is a ball and a wall to practice. You don’t need another person, you don’t need a floor – all that you need is a basketball,” said Haskins.
Handley said several people and businesses made donations or assisted with the camp: Save-A-Lot, William Masden, The Life Connection, his family, Haskins, Sonya Handley and Rhonda Thurman.
At some point, Handley plans to expand the program into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He is also in the process of creating a nonprofit to help fund the camp.